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Regina council to address addictions crisis with talks of city-wide harm reduction strategy

Click to play video 'Regina council to address addictions crisis with talks of city-wide harm reduction strategy' Regina council to address addictions crisis with talks of city-wide harm reduction strategy
It’s a record-year for overdoses in Regina, and it’s prompting city council to make a change. As Allison Bamford explains, it’s far from a solution, but it’s seen as a good first step. – Oct 29, 2020

In its last meeting before the civic election, Regina council unanimously voted in favour of a city-wide harm reduction strategy.

The motion brought forward by councillors Andrew Stevens, Lori Bresciani, Bob Hawkins and Jason Mancinelli aims to address the record high overdoses in the city.

“To put proper investment in having some type of harm reduction and solutions is very important before it grows beyond what it is,” said Jason Mancinelli, Ward 9 councillor.

Regina has the highest number of confirmed overdose deaths at 58, according to updated statistics released by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service on Monday. Saskatoon has 24.

Read more: Unanswered distress calls: Overdose response requires political will, community members say

Province-wide, 122 people have died by overdoses this year. Factoring in the 174 suspected overdoses, there are 296 deaths in total, which surpasses the previous record of 171 set in 2018.

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White Pony Lodge is a non-profit that cleans up needles and other drug paraphernalia in the North Central neighbourhood, while also administering naloxone and first-aid to those who need it.

Leah O’Malley, White Pony Lodge board chair, says she feels “unbelievable sadness and pain” when she hears those statistics.

“That’s a huge sign to me that we’re missing something somewhere. We’re letting people fall through the cracks,” O’Malley told Global News.

“It’s a really good sign that we need to get together and do something more.”

O’Malley supports council’s motion, saying it’s a step in the right direction.

Read more: Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site marks 1 week since opening

The motion adds addictions and substance use in the mandate for the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

The city will work with a group of experts and community organizations including the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Reconciliation Regina, and fire and police services to develop a city-wide harm reduction strategy.

That strategy could include needle drop-off locations, safe consumption sites, traditional ceremonial spaces, detox facilities and addictions support services.

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Mancinelli says the first step is consultation.

“I have to listen and understand everything still and I think there’s many of us in that situation,” Mancinelli said.

“By the numbers of what’s going on and the costs and everything we talk about, it’s definitely time to listen and take action.”

Council will place an emphasis on consultation with Indigenous groups, which is an important part of understanding all factors that contribute to addictions, according to O’Malley.

Read more: Regina council passes Airbnb regulations in final meeting before civic election

“These are the people who are disproportionately affected. These are the people who are going to be able to tell you very specific stories that not every Canadian has to deal with,” O’Malley said.

“Even though some people might be able to understand it, living a shared experience is a totally different thing.”

Council doesn’t have a timeline for when a strategy might be created.

Click to play video 'Pandemic highlights gaps in harm-reduction supports in Regina, advocates say' Pandemic highlights gaps in harm-reduction supports in Regina, advocates say
Pandemic highlights gaps in harm-reduction supports in Regina, advocates say – Jul 27, 2020